Yacht design goes for mod cons and retro to beat crunch

The have-nots and the haveyachts will gather at the PSP Southampton Boat Show this weekend to marvel at – and in some cases actually buy – one of this year’s crop of spanking new launches.

The 2009 exhibition will showcase 1000 vessels, a record 65 of which will make their debuts there. The most expensive of the new bunch is Sunseeker’s £10.6m, 38m-long Predator 130, with room for ten guests and eight crew.

‘The Predator 130 is devilishlooking,’ says Sunseeker design manager Jonathan Goldie of its shark-like exterior. ‘When you get to a ship of this size, the interior design is specific to each customer.’

Up to three teams will work on each of Sunseeker’s superyacht interiors, including the in-house team, yacht interiors group Design Unlimited and the customer’s own interior designer. Together they will decide everything, from layouts to wood finishes.

Both luxury apartments and round-the-world sailing boats are current influences on British recreational boat design, according to British Marine Federation manufacturing manager Adrian Waddams.

‘People are much more demanding about boat interiors than they used to be,’ says Waddams. ‘They are looking for mod cons like eye-level ovens, nice showers, granitelook worktops and open-plan spaces, so what you end up with is interior styling that looks similar to, say, a contemporary London apartment.’

Studio Conran’s ongoing relationship with leading-edge motor yacht manufacturer Sealine this year produced airy, contemporary interiors for the T60. The boat recorded strong sales despite the recession, a sign that consumers are seeking higher design values, says Studio Conran founder Sebastian Conran.

He adds, ‘Yacht-building technology has increased quite dramatically, but the aesthetic sensibility of a lot of yachts remains quite conservative, belying the sophistication of the machine you are in.’

Below the waterline theb hulls of leisure vessels are increasingly influenced by the narrower, sleeker shapes of round-the-world sailing yachts. And in return, sailing boats are succumbing to the comfortlevels that are standard on their motorised cousins.

Discovery Yachts chairman John Charnley, who builds sailing boats ‘for people to go off and explore the world’, has already sold two £1.7m, eightberth Discovery 67s, which will be unveiled to the public at Southampton. He has sold both to young families for their round-the-world trips.

‘What makes this boat different is its raised saloon and navigation station, which allows the look-out to stay warm and comfy inside the boat,’ says Charnley. ‘It is much more a home-from-home than many yachts in this respect.’

Above the waterline, sailing yachts are currently heavily influenced by retro styles. ‘There is a big trend for retro design, with long overhangs at the bow and the stern – which gives a sleek appearance – and lots of bright wood finishes,’ says Waddam, who describes such boats as ‘sheep in wolves’ clothing’, because the hulls are ‘anything but traditional’.

Charnley claims that the recession has not influenced the choice or quality of materials or layouts of his boat designs, which were drawn up before the credit crunch. But he has noticed that people are waiting longer to commit and admits that ‘inevitably we have been affected to an extent’.

The PSP Southampton Boat Show’s tagline this year is ‘It’s your show’, which National Boat Shows marketing manager Mike Enser says is ‘about democratisation’. The marketing campaign and the show’s look and feel has been designed by Lee Peck Group. ‘The message is that boating is not just about chinos, blazers and gin at six, but that non-enthusiasts are welcome to the show too,’ says Enser.

Sunseeker International
– Predator 130, 80, 54 and 60
Sealine – the F46, with three levels, wraparound windows and a striking black-and-white exterior
Fairline Boats – Squadron 65
Princess Yachts – sports yacht V78 and motor yacht 78, both with interiors by an in-house team
Discovery Yachts – the 67 ocean-going yacht, designed by marine architect Ron Holland

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